Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT
Cricketer's rape conviction quashed
Makhaya Ntini: Previously faced a six-year jail sentence
South African cricketer Makhaya Ntini has won his appeal against a rape conviction and had his six-year jail sentence overturned.
Ntini, who made history as the first black person to play for South Africa, was convicted of raping a young woman at a cricket ground in the coastal town of East London last year.
But on Friday the Grahamstown High Court ruled that deficiencies in the prosecution's case meant that the conviction would not be upheld.
Judge Chris Jansen ruled Ntini's guilt had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt and the woman's account of the alleged rape had been "contradictory and inconsistent."
Ntini's supporters sang and danced outside the court after the appeal judgement was announced.
South Africa's United Cricket Board said in a statement that it was pleased that the High Court had vindicated Ntini, who was expelled from the South African national team when he was convicted in May.
"The United Cricket Board has continually stated that it deplores the act of rape as a heinous crime," the statement read.
"However, notwithstanding criticism from various quarters, we were not prepared to abandon one of our contracted players while the legal process still had to run its course."
Before his conviction, Ntini had been regarded as a role model for the young black sportsmen trying to succeed in the white-dominated sport of cricket in South Africa.
Battle against rape
South Africa's notoriously high rate of violence against women is a burning political issue in the country.
Police statistics suggest that nearly two milllion people are raped in South Africa every year.
But President Thabo Mbeki this week questioned the police statistics, saying that speculative figures "will not help us properly to fight against the terrible crime of rape".
However, he said that even one rape was too many, and he was saddened to see a country which had defeated apartheid failing so miserably in its battle against sexual violence.
Also this week, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said the government was considering the possibility of punishing rapists who repeatedly offend by chemically castrating them.
He told MPs the government was committed to removing the threat posed to society by those who repeatedly committed sexual offences.
The South African Law Commission is currently studying the human rights implications and feasibility of chemical castration, and would make recommendations, he added.
Women's organisations and crime experts doubted that the threat of castration would deter rapists